UK Producer and DJ Paul Woolford feels like a sixteen year old discovering everything for the first time. Inspired and invigorated by his trips to Detroit last year, it’s no wonder Paul's left giddy following his first release on Carl Craig's Planet E Communications and in a career-defining moment stepping up to the booth amongst originators of techno, Derrick May and the man Carl Craig himself - in his first ever Detroit gig. Alongside debut 2011 releases on Scuba’s Hotflush and his pulsing T Williams ‘Heartbeat’ remix - to hear Paul’s nocturnal studio activity is in full flow of the sound spectrum and without boundaries fills us with sheer excitement. So when we catch up with Paul ahead of his fabric date next Saturday and he pulls the rug from his plans for 2012, including an upcoming album under the name 'Special Request' - something tells us Paul will be feeling sixteen for years to come.
Read on to hear more, and for thick kicks, bassline and groove follow the widget to get his b2b set with BEN UFO ripped from Rinse FM last month:
Hey Paul, looking back on 2011- have there been any career-defining moments for you?
There have been a few during what was one of my toughest years personally for family reasons. My trips to Detroit were equal parts inspiring and invigorating, and furthermore felt almost like moments of kismet in many respects. Playing my debut gig in Detroit amongst the guys that pretty much invented techno, as their guest, is probably the biggest honour I've had so far. Having hits is something that a lot of people chase, but to me, artistry is of far greater importance. My set at The Works for the PE20 event was sandwiched in between Carl with Niko Marks from UR on keys, and Derrick May closing. Quite a moment, I assumed I'd be on warm-up duties. Berghain was unreal also, that whole tour in fact, and there were some serious magic moments.
I've been buying these records since I was a late teenager, reading every last detail of the centre-labels, poring over the artwork, it's been as much a part of my DNA as old rave tapes and pirate radio. Stepping out of the booth to see Hagi Craig (my friend, US agent at Detroit Premiere Artists, and Carl's wife), Kevin Saunderson, Stacey & Andrea Pullen, Juan Atkins, Sherard Ingram from Urban Tribe, Monty Luke from Planet E/Black Catalogue, the incredible Anthony Shakir, Naomi Daniels' son was in there, Kyle Hall from the new school, all present and correct was a lot of fun. And I didn't go and play back-to-back Detroit records because there would have been no point in that. Carl invited me to do what I do in the context of celebrating the label and the place where it began, so to play a part in that was a huge turning point. Not so much for me psychologically, but I think more in terms of others' perceptions. Working with Hotflush is excellent, the reception on the T Williams remix was really strong, and most recently the last few months of nocturnal studio activity has been without boundaries at all. I feel like a 16 year old discovering everything for the first time.
In this year, what are musical stories from the underground that have either shocked you, excited you or scared you?
The biggest story I can see is the constant light-speed 24-7 global marketing machine, and the way people are allowing social networking not to advise, but to DICTATE how lives are being led, not just from the musical perspective, but through every aspect of our lives. We all have choices. How much you see that what's in front of you is actually marketed and how much is not is what defines how much you are living in the real world, or how much the information you are just passing on is spoon-fed. That's not to say that being spoon-fed isn't pleasurable, for some people. We're almost at the point where nobody needs to be themselves any more, merely a construct through the LIKE button which dictates the next phase of adverts fired at you. You could view that as the darkest thought, or simply banal. Creatively, I think the most challenging work can expose banality to be the most shocking thing. In turn, that excites me because it's provocative. I love what Hype Williams continue to do in this area with their music. The contrast in it. On occasion it is equal parts banal and horrifying which I think is something beautiful. A wild combination.
We know Carl Craig is a huge inspiration to you- can you tell us a bit about the history behind this and what is your relationship like today with the Detroit beatsmith after releasing the debut single for his Planet E Communication last year?
What can you say about Carl? I've been into his music since hearing his first track 'Elements' on the Techno 2 Compilation on Virgin records so many years ago, and it was the most gentle track on the album. At this time I had never been to a club that played this music, so sometimes the gentler, more ambient tracks would connect with me more, and that was true at the time of things like 'Sueno Latino' ,which Derrick ended up remixing into another emotion-fuelled moment. My relationship with Carl began through a mutual friend, Gamall Awad from Backspin PR in NYC - I spent some time with Gamall over there about 4 or 5 years ago and we really connected. Carl and Gamall have been close friends for a long time, and even though immediately I wanted to blast tracks at Carl through Gamall, I waited until I knew I had the right headspace to truly work on the project properly. The first track I sent direct to Carl he replied 6 hours later asking for more, and then we went for 2 years back and forth, and I think I sent him about 15 tracks over that time Carl's way is to let you feel it out, so that what happened. He didn't do that A&R thing that so many labels do because they want everything to fit an aesthetic for marketing reasons, he is purely creatively open to whatever works. He gave me free reign. I sent him super-stripped bare Hood-style tracks, jazz-influenced things that were barely techno-related, some with housier elements, and we had agreed on using something called 'Tomorrow' which was constructed nearly entirely from samples from John Cage's prepared piano, but then it changed, so that one's still there somewhere. I actually release less than 5% of what I produce and then of that there's only some things that will suite Planet E so there's more coming but I'll only send them the right ones. But yeah, it's a family thing.
If you could suggest one place that you have visited in your career as a must- go with a totally authentic twist on music and understanding where is it?
Detroit's an obvious and well-documented answer here, but for anyone serious about this music, or anyone with a curiosity about the lives of others, it's a city that you need to experience for yourself. I can't even begin to explain here.
What has been the best music advice Carl Craig or any one of your musical role models has given you?
There's a Charlie Parker quote I've always loved: "Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom, if you don't live it, it won't come out... They teach you there is a boundary line to music, but there's no boundary to art." One from Carl: "Try some of this cake"
How are you looking forward to playing in Room One next Saturday with Claude Von Stroke and again, in Room Two with Efdemin, Skudge (LIVE), Delta Funktionen. Not to forget Oslo doing their thing in Room Three!
I've been pulling out various records from over the years for this one. To be able to shape the night using both Room 1 & 2 is something I'm very much looking forward to.
Are there still sounds you are yet to explore? Tell us about the direction you’re moving in and who you are looking to for inspiration?
It's endless, almost torturous on occasion. I wish I could clone myself to record more because although it's tumbling out, it feels like I have another two lifetimes of it inside my head. It used to be completely driven by emotional situations but the inspiration is more detached now. The work of Richard Prince, Hype Williams as I mentioned earlier, snippets of conversation, loads of old hardcore, recording in 2 day stretches and then sleeping for 15 hours to repeat the cycle, the adverts galleries take out in magazines - mostly more than the actual work itself, taking tangents - things being off the point rather than on it, the film GoodFellas watched for the 254th time and still I want to watch it again, consumerism in every context, inspiration comes in everything. You just have to know when the right time is. Occasionally the wrong time brings in even better results though.
You’ve attracted the remixing skills of Appleblim, Norman Nodge and T Williams on your own imprint, Intimacy. Tell us how these reworks came about and how pleased you are with the outcomes. Who else would you like to get on board?
Laurie Appleblim is someone I met through a mutual friend, Steve Hall, we bumped into each other one night playing at Space in Ibiza and immediately connected, he's a real kindred spirit, and it went from there. I just finished a remix for Komonazmuk which is in return for the mix they did on Intimacy. That's coming on the first single from his forthcoming album, with another version by Addison Groove, it's about 140bpm, another experiment... Norman Nodge is someone I wanted involved following playing his track 'Man Made' so many times, and we finally met in Germany in 2011. The T Williams remix for Local Action was out of the blue, we just gave it a go and it connected with so many people. There's a pop edge to that record for sure, Terri Walker has recorded for Def Jam in New York and has a unique voice, so all these records are completely different from one another, which is what I like. Kassem Mosse has done a remix for me which is part of a new project.
Any plans on the horizon for an album?
Yes, there's one under the name Special Request where the starting point is pirate radio, there's one of ambient material which is basically a sprawling compilation now, then there is all the rest of it which is all over the shop - ideally I'd want to release a double album with parts of everything, but I barely have time to think about releasing at all. The first two Special Request 12"s are coming soon. One of those will contain the Kassem Mosse remix I mentioned. I'm going to be playing some limited sets under this name also, it will be more extreme.
Tell us about the mix you’ve given us- taken from Ben UFOs show on Rinse FM. What’s your affliction with the station and the music they are pushing right now?
Yeah this is from December 15th; we did a back to back set on the Hessle show. To me, Rinse is like the modern equivalent of the pirate stations I used to listen to years ago, so hearing Ben, Steve Braiden, Loefah, and many more on there has been inspiring, particularly in Ben's case, as has been well-documented elsewhere. There's more happening with Rinse which means I can use material which is certainly heavier, depending on the context, although on this mix with Ben we barely scratched the surface, we could have gone on for hours more.
If you could look into your crystal ball for 2012 what are some of the radical changes you see happening in the underground scene? Be it new technologies, raves, label movements…you name it.
More people not giving (excuse my language) a flying fuck about what is expected of them, the so-called "right" way, format wars, technological distractions, or indeed any other bullshit that detracts from the main pursuit. Creatively, we have everything we need; in fact we probably have too much.
Finally, what are three things you can’t live without?
My entire family & friends / health / music
Ben UFO x Paul Woolford B2B / Hessle Audio / Rinse FM